By FELIX D. FOFOH
Part I of this article in the previous edition looked at the discovery of diamonds in Kono District, the colonial control of the minerals and the influx of foreign elements into the country in search of wealth.
I also stated that the establishment of Sierra Leone Selection Trust (S.L.S.T), a company from the DeBeers Group that came to plunder the precious minerals with utmost disrespect to the indigenes of the land. After 50 years of exploitation, the elite of Kono nursed a new strategy to challenge the Colonial Government, thus the Rover Social Club was formed.
The rich resources would have been further exploited if immediate steps were not taken to nip the colonial tendencies in the bud. This transformation of Rover Social Club into Kono Progressive Movement (KPM) was spearheaded by Tamba Songu Mbriwa in the early 1960s. The movement helped the All People’s Congress (APC) to form Government under the leadership of Siaka Probyn Stevens. Of course, Tamba Songu Mbriwa died immediately after APC came to power under mysterious circumstances.
The APC were declared as winners of the 1967 General Elections by Governor Sir Lightfoot Boston Siaka P. Stevens but owning to military intervention, their leader Siaka P. Steven did not assume power until 1968 when he returned from exile in neighbouring Guinea on the invitation of the late Brigadier John Bangura, who was also invited by junior military officers to lead the coup that overthrew the National Reformation Council (NRC) led by Brigadier Juxon Smith.
When Siaka Stevens acceded to power in 1968, his vision was to change the name from Sierra Leone Selective Trust (SLST) to National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC). The biggest diamond ever discovered was the Star of Sierra Leone in the 70s but Kono did not benefit from the proceeds of the sales. There was no structural development out of the stone. Yet, the Kono people did not react in any negative way.
This extraordinary account comes from those who witnessed the callous regime of Siaka Stevens who exploited the Kono land with impunity.
Unlike SLST which offered scholarships to children of Paramount Chiefs from the diamondiferous chiefdoms, NDMC paid little attention to the suffering of the landowners. Yet Kono was still silent over what went wrong?
The first two decades of Siaka Stevens’ rule was characterised by draconian administration exerting animosity among the Kono personalities. What has been the result of all the evils that the district has suffered from over the years? More suffering in silence until a splinter killed a woman from the kimberlitic of operations in the 1980s. The account of that accident describes how the Kono man failed to ascertain authority and prospect what belonged to him.
The Siaka Stevens’ regime believed in divide and rule. I could vividly remember how S.R.Kassegbama was humiliated in full view of the public during the opening of killer River Bridge across Baffin. Diamonds were mined in his name as Head of State without being answerable to the Kono people.
Now, it is President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC who is our Head of State. His democratically elected Vice President, Samuel Sam Sumana, was expelled from the party last year and was later relieved of his duty as Vice President. The Kono man received that information with chill in his spine. Yet there was no negative uproar or reaction towards the dismissal of Samuel Sam Sumana. Does this suggest that the Kono people are docile?
This explanation of why Kono has been treated with gross nonchalance and impunity which is in harmony with what we may know today about heredity in the Kono tribe, therefore, bleeds in silence.
In conclusion, it is common knowledge to Sierra Leoneans that the 2007 parliamentary and presidential elections were a herculean task for the APC because of lack of funding. But Sam Sumana in his wisdom spent his personal resources to ensure victory for the APC. For him to be sent in the cold at this point in time and take a quiet exit in a foreign land is another agony in silence.